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iPad Mini — some initial reactions

December 27, 2013

I was recently awarded an iPad Mini in recognition of completing an unreasonable number of years with my employer. While I have set up and done troubleshooting on various iOS devices for my colleagues this was my first personal iOS device and my first tablet. My expectations are therefore influenced by my prior experience with Blackberry phones and with laptop computers.

Here are some observations:

The Hardware and Interface

This is a very slick device – very light, very slim, very crisp display. It’s a nice size compromise for situations where a phone is too small and you don’t want to tote a laptop. And it’s just right for viewing most web pages when turned to landscape orientation.

A nice feature on the orientation is that it will adjust to however you’re holding it, happily making any of the four edges “up”.

The keyboard is just too small to really type using all fingers as you would on a laptop keyboard but the keys have enough room between them and the sensitivity is easy to adjust to. I have historically had a lot of trouble with touch interfaces but this one seems less squirrely than many.

The arrangement of the keys, on the other hand, is quite annoying. As most iOS users will know the letter keys are on one keyboard and you need to switch to a second keyboard for numbers and most symbols. It makes typing any kind of complex password, email address or url very annoying! Holding a letter key down gives you a choice of accented versions of the letter (at least in some apps) but I miss the Blackberry behavior of giving you an upper case if you keep the key pressed.

The WiFi seems to require a stronger signal than some of my other devices but otherwise works as expected.

I had to get someone at the Apple store to show me how to move icons from one page to another; there’s a “just right” spot you have to drag to. They also showed me the workaround to set lock screen text – create a graphic with the text in it and set that as the lock screen wallpaper. Again, the Blackberry approach seems a bit more sensible.

The iOS devices have no option for an SD card or other removable storage and seem to have no real internal file system accessible to the user.

Email

I put my personal mail on the iPad as an IMAP account. It seems quite slow to download and load but I don’t know where the slowdown is – the host, the network speed or IMAP itself. I also put my work account (Notes Traveler) on the device and did not notice any speed issue there. I’ve got three mail accounts on the device now, two IMAP and Notes, and it’s not always obvious which one you’re sending from.

Finally, I find the fact that there is always an email message open behind the inbox listing a bit odd and distracting.

Preloaded Software

When you first set up the iPad it offers to download a large suite of Apple software. I declined. Then when I was ready to install the software I couldn’t find any way back to that offer. Instead I had to hunt for the individual items on the App Store.

There is an App Store and an iTunes store – the former just for apps and games and iTunes for media. It’s sensible enough but I had never seen it split into two stores on other platforms.

The Safari web browser came with bookmarks set for Apple, Disney, ESPN and Yahoo. Seemed an odd selection. The address bar doubles as a search bar. I know that’s becoming the norm but I still find it slightly confusing.

Bottom Line

I’m still not sure I would have bought a third device for myself, or that this would have been it. But it’s a very slick and convenient tool that does most of what most folks will need most of the time.

Feedback welcomed but let’s not debate Apple vs Windows vs Linux here. Thanks.

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5 Comments
  1. This is very off-topic, but which WordPress plugin do you use for the Twitter / Facebook / LinkedIn / Google sharing?

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  2. Darren – I used the native WordPress features available under Settings – Sharing.

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  3. Hmmm, I don’t have that. I wonder if that’s something you get when you’re hosted on wordpress.com, or maybe something with JetPack.

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  4. I assume the sharing features are a service that comes with the WordPress hosting.

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  5. Arrgh! Looked something up on the iPad for someone, then wanted to send the link. No obvious way to do it. And the browser address bar showed the domain I ended up at, not the specific url (e.g “apple.com” in place of “www.apple.com/displays”.
    [OK you can send the current url by email or other messaging tools from the send icon in the browser]

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